Violence Doesn’t Sell – Just Look at Manhunt 2

Violence in video games doesn’t necessarily increase sales – especially when violence limits the game getting distributed. Manhunt 2 by Rockstar Games received AO (adults only) ESRB rating .

This lead to couple of problems:

  • Sony and Nintendo won’t accept AO games. This means that Manhunt 2 (in it’s current form) won’t be published on PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and Nintendo Wii.
  • UK banned Manhunt 2 – which means it won’t be sold anywhere in the UK. Other countries might ban it too.

Since some consoles are out of question, the next thing is to try to get the game on PC. That’s okay, but the problem with PC platform is that major retail stores such as Wal-Mart and others don’t accept AO games. This means while the game is published on PC, there’s not many proper distributors who would actually sell it.

Take-two (publisher) has to now think about alternative solutions. They might consider making the game suitable for consoles, but perhaps leaving original version to PC. Additional (perhaps not so profitable) option is to also look at the digital delivery channels (Steam and others) and consider how well the game could sell via Internet. Since digital delivery is still in it’s infancy, it might not be a profitable solution for game like this.

Looks like violence doesn’t sell after all, even though the common sense might say otherwise.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Russ, games can be art, but it is still a buissness. And no one is obligated to sell your game, in fact, people, corporations and goverments has the right not to like your game and ban it.
    Why do they have to give you a chance to sell your game if they don’t like it?

  2. RE: Anonymous
    I think you are talking about slander and libel, not censorship. Please attempt to provide a legitimate example of where censorship works. Since you are reading this site, I assume that you are in the business of making video games to some degree. If so, you should be very worried about censorship of our medium unless you only want to make “safe” games that the government allows. Whether you agree or not that games are art, they are a creative process and people should be allowed to create the game they want. Frankly, your comments offend me and if I could, I would ban you.

    As far a s Rockstar/TakeTwo is concerned, it looks as though two things are occurring:
    1. This is garnering Manhunt 2 tremendous press and will likely equate to moderately high sales.
    2. Doug Lowenstein’s chastising of the industry at the DICE conference sunk into their heads, they’ve grown a pair and are finally standing up for their work. We should all get behind them.

  3. Violence doesn’t sell? I wonder why Doom was such a successful game, then ;)

    I would rather call it “Manhunt 2 doesn’t sell”. I read about the first game, and as far as I remember, the game itself was pretty boring and repetitive. Of course, there were discussions about moral and ethics etc etc, but some reviewers who ignored that and just wrote about the game said that it was pretty dull. And even if they improved the second game, the bad first game might have impact on the sales of the second one.

    And one thing that should be concerned: It might be, that Rockstar Games doesn’t even care too much for the sales. They are a big company with many successful titles, perhaps Manhunt 2 was their “let’s do that game, just to have fun and for the fans”-project ;)

  4. I am not certain it is bad that a country ban’s a game in terms of democracy.
    People tend to confuse democracy with anarchy. In anarchy the people can do whatever they like because there is no government.
    In democracy, the government rule the people who chose them. So the government has the right to ban a game. If the people in the UK have such a big problem with the ban of the game they have the right to protest about it.
    So there is no right or wrong here, there are just the rules of the democracy game.
    And all the people and factions in democracy has the right to try and influence what is happening in their country. Its a game of powers and political muscle.
    But saying, this shouldnt happen because its wrong, is just irrelavent to democracy.
    There are laws in democracy, play by these laws.

  5. Yeah seriously. No-one ever bought a banned movie.

    It’s free advertising, and it’s exactly what they wanted to happen – just like manhunt 1.

    And frankly, good. Because this is the only way that video games will be judged as art, instead of as a threat to society – like movies were in the 80s. And I’m kinda glad we have at least one studio willing to stand up and make a point instead of pussying out and trying to slide their game under the Teen rating.

  6. Gears of War, Hitman, GTA – violence doesnt’ sell :P
    In my country I don’t have Wal-Mart, but is Wal-Mart selling alcohol? It’s AO product…
    What about movies – Saw, Hostel – yep, childplay…
    It’s just hypocrisy!

  7. Violence absolutely sells – in a free marketplace. Only government interference prevents it. So the free market (the majority of people) want these products but the extreme minority (politicians and lobbyists) say “no”. That sounds reasonable to you?

    Of course censors don’t see themselves as censors, just “defenders of good taste and morality”, which is a load of BS. The problem with your argument is who decides what is and isn’t worthy of public consumption? If the far right and far left had their way then nothing would be suitable. The world would be Mario games and Happy Days reruns. I’m sure that probably sounds great to you but to the rest of us, not so much.

    The rating system is put in place to do the job of keeping crap like Manhunt 2 out of the reach of minors. Adults should be allowed to play whatever the hell they want.

    Both the government and the industry need to get their act in gear and let the system work. If your game gets and AO rating don’t cry about it, don’t appeal on the grounds of “art” – FIX IT or accept that you have limited resources to sell your game with. And the government needs to stand by the AO rating and say “Okay, this game goes with the porn magazines in the back” rather than banning it outright.

  8. If you don’t ban it, then you implicitly condone or approve it.

    I hate arguments about censorship and free speech. Some people ignorantly think they have the “right” to say or do whatever they want. And people stupidly use this argument to defend all kinds of obscene and trashy products, language, behavior, etc.

    Worse yet, are those who say they don’t personally approve of what someone says or does, but they defend their supposed “right” to do it. How screwed up is that?? “I don’t approve of trashy magazines”, but you’ll defend their right to sell them in the grocery line where my kid can see them? “I don’t approve of drugs”, but you’ll defend someone’s “right” to sell them or take them if he/she wants?

    There are legitimate reasons for restrictions and/or censorship. Always have been. If something you say or do or create intentionally harms someone, openly encourages crime or treason, breaks the law, or violates the basic concept of decency and good taste that is accepted by a society, they have every right to censor, restrict, or ban you.

    People are always pushing the boundaries of what is considered acceptable, and unless and until someone draws the line in the sand and says “this far, and no further”, people will continue to produce trashier and more disgusting stuff. Just look at all the garbage on TV and in the theatres. I say “bravo” to the UK. It’s about time someone put their foot down.

  9. Well, in this case violence does not sell as Take2 has suspended release of the title (http://www.gamesindustry.biz/content_page.php?aid=26025)

    I can’t help but feel that people are missing the big picture here… A work of fiction (and some claim art) was banned! Not just restricted, but outright banned (as non-rated games can’t legally be sold in the UK). Since when is censorship a good thing?

    Obviously the sale should have been restricted to 18 years or older and not banned. As an adult you have every right in the world to make your own choices and decisions about what you want to see, hear, think and speak about.

    I’m not condoning the content of Manhunt 2 or approving of what Take2 are continuously doing (provoking the “puritans”) but I’m just saying that banning is wrong!

  10. That it got banned doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t have sold well. I’m still curious if a game that shows the other side of violence than what most games show would actually sell. Gamers tend to like to be heroes fighting to save the planet. In Manhunt, you’re a victim who is forced to kill in order to stay alive. And then the game is about nothing but killing. Not for a higher purpose, to save the princess or defend your country. But just the bare killing as such. Which Rock Star apparently succesfully portrayed as repugnant. Sounds like a niche market to me but is it?

  11. Claim about “violence don’t sell” based on reasons you said is about as ridiculous as claiming alcohol don’t sell if it’s banned :P

  12. There is no such thing as bad publicity in this kind of case. If the game comes out with softened content or on a different platform it will still do well. Up until yesterday I hadn’t even heard of this game and now I am hearing about it on the internet, tv, and radio.

  13. When violence doesn’t sell, it will definitely sell!!!! (no I am not insane :) Just think about it, when the mainstream market (Sony, Nintendo, retail, …) puts a ban on those games, they will leave a huge market gap for indies to fill. Rockstar already proves that violent games can sell, else they wouldn’t make a sequel. But if the mainstream market bans it, this means that there will be a huge opportunity for indie game developers to sell their violent games though alternative distribution channels.

  14. I think it’s not that it won’t sell, they are just afraid of what might happen. The game hasn’t even been published yet and already it’s taking lots of flak. Should Sony and Nintendo decide to publish it, you can be sure it will be blamed for something in no time. They simply don’t want to take the risk, and honestly I can’t blame them.

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